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OVER THE HEDGE

Woodland Band
One animal has not just learned to survive but actually to thrive in the paved and pre-packaged world of suburbia. An enterprising raccoon named RJ has found a way to make the other animals' loss his gain.

Johnson expounds, "A group of woodland creatures awaken from months of hibernation to discover that, where once was a forest there's a hedge, and beyond that hedge, there is a brand new world they are terrified to venture into. Enter RJ. We call him our raconteur raccoon. He's a sly character with his own agenda, who's used to living life on his own and who has never experienced anything like the home and family that Verne and his friends have. We compare RJ to Harold Hill in ‘The Music Man'—a sort of sly con man who comes in and talks a good game, but never quite warns the animals of the perils he's leading them into.”

Bruce Willis provides the voice of RJ, and Kirkpatrick says he had just the right vocal quality for the role, which was part thief, part huckster and all charm. "RJ needed to be a charming rascal. Bruce has this roguish side to his personality, but he always has this kind of half smile that gives you the sense he's playing a little bit of a game with you while letting you in on the joke.”

Willis offers, "It was fun to get into the RJ mode. He is a devil-may-care raccoon, the David Addison of the animal kingdom,” the actor adds, referencing the irreverent character that first brought him to fame on the television series "Moonlighting.” "Over the years, RJ has accumulated all these human items that he carries in a golf bag—his own bag of tricks. It's all very clever, but the most appealing aspect of the character for me is when he shows his vulnerability. He is really a lonely little raccoon, who runs into this family of animals and finds he wants to be part of them. But the con man in him needs something from them, and a lot of the comedy comes out of the predicaments RJ gets them into. There are a lot of funny things that kids will be able to relate to, but much of the humor was written specifically for the adults. The film makes a strong point about over-consumption, and holds a mirror up to human behavior and society in general in a way that I think everybody is going to find funny.”

"Bruce was a wonderful guy to work with,” Johnson states. "Every session he would ask what else we had learned about the character and how he could bring more to the part. It's a joy to work with somebody who is not only so passionate about his own performance but also about contributing to the overall picture.”

Unfortunately for Willis' character, RJ is going to learn a lesson about over-consumption the hard way when he forgets one important rule of nature: only take what you need. Caught stealing a wagonload of food from an angry bear, RJ has exactly one week to pay it all back—right down to the red wagon—or he'll be dead meat...literally.

"How is he going to do it?” Johnson asks and answers, "Take advantage of these naïve innocents and con them into gathering enough food to repay the bear.”

The leader of that group of innocents is a turtle named Verne, who is voiced by Garry Shandling. "Verne is a very practical, cautious turtle, and Garry did a marvelous job of capturing his warmth and family affection, as well as his fear of change and anything new,” Johnson says.

As the de facto head of the forest family, Verne is the first to venture to the other side of the hedge, with disastrous results. He barely makes it back alive, and now, Johnson reports, "Verne looks at suburbia and sees nothing but peril. He never wants to go over that hedge again, but RJ has other plans. He needs the animals' help to gather a wagonload of food for a hungry bear.” Shandling offers, "Verne is consumed with protecting his family from this fast-talking fellow, RJ, who just comes in and takes over. Right off the bat, Verne has a bad

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